Dallas and the arts diaspora

Joy Bailey Bryant
Joy Bailey Bryant

The Dallas Examiner

After 150 committee meetings, the City of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs has drafted a cultural arts plan that will provide a new artistic look to various local neighborhoods and cultural groups.

“Essentially, the cultural plan identifies the top priorities when it comes to arts and culture for the city of Dallas,” said Joy Bailey-Bryant, vice president of Lord Cultural Resources, during OCA’s feedback and activation workshop at Southwest Center Mall on Sept. 8.

The outline pinpoints six primary concerns centered on creating a longstanding arts mecca and stronger art value: equity, diversity, space, support, sustainable arts ecosystem and communications.

“The thing is, the people of Dallas are spending more money on buildings than on people,” Bailey-Bryant explained. “What we’re going to do is look to and act on opportunities to bolster those places where we have not invested as much – where there’s been an inequitable investment in arts and culture.”

The committee aims to address each priority by dedicating 40 percent of its funding to support minority artists and provide more artistic opportunities – from street paving and art centers to overlooked areas and initiating different programs and pop-up shops.

“It’s not necessarily that we’re looking for a magical funder to come and descend upon Dallas,” Bailey-Bryant said. “It’s really looking at the opportunities that are already available and how can we utilize those.”

During the workshop, 20 audience members participated in a survey regarding their opinions on the plan and what issues they would like addressed. Among the majority older White audience, the draft was strongly agreed upon despite everyone having major concerns about art spacing, ecosystem development and communication.

Diane Paul, Continental Gin Building representative, voiced the urgent need for more networking opportunities and a “clearing house for space” for artists who need a fair amount of creative legroom.

“A lot of people don’t know who to talk to and who to call,” she said. “We’ve seen artists get taken advantage of by developing because they’ve been asked to come into an area and make it cool, and they’re sort of weeded out.”

Local architect, Ann Abernathy, further expanded on this idea, explaining the importance of venue access and private partnership to ensure everyone gets “their corner of the pie-shaped piece.”

“The idea of a space finder system [has] so much potential to find the alignment between groups of different sizes and kinds of performing arts and [find] spaces that are available, because nobody can completely plan everything they do in advance, and it’s complicated,” she expressed. “I mentioned that there are ways in which places could be actively marketed so that the venues we already have in place in Dallas can be more fully utilized if people knew where they were and what their attributes were.”

Different ways to establish a healthy arts community were also discussed in the workshop. Wordspace Dallas chair, Andrea Tosten, proposed sustaining Dallas historical landmarks and buildings, as well as partnering with local Black organizations, such as Remembering Black Dallas, to address the city’s racist history and “help cultural reference in those ways.”

“Dallas does a good job of planning things and then sitting on the idea, so hopefully everything we’re discussing here today will actually get implemented,” she said. “It’s important to address those things so that we really can move on and be in reality.”

Communication became the centerpiece of every category with participants wanting the plan to highlight how to create widespread communication effectively through various marketing tools and street signage.

“[It] was not quite detailed or specific enough for us,” said author Ann Fields. “We like what we saw but there was another level that needed to go deeper for us.”

As local residents gave their suggestions, Dallas Cultural Affairs commissioner, Jean Paul Batiste, was in attendance preparing for the upcoming commission meeting.

“What I’ve learned most is that Dallas has reached a point where it understands that it is a different city than it was 50 years ago,” Batiste commented. “It is excited about its future and innovative about addressing its future.”

The final plan will be presented to the commission today before being reviewed for approval by the city council in October.


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